I was still working for the government, and would be for the next four years. Well, they had paid for my majoring in Magic at the university. Three years at the university translated to six years of governmental service. I had already 'served' two of those six years.
If my magical abilities had been discovered earlier, while I was in high school, then I could have gotten a grant, and side stepped mandatory governmental service. However, I was a late bloomer, magic wise, and no one realized my abilities until I was already serving in the army.
I sighed, and thought about the paper I was writing for my wizard's evaluation. I was currently a sorcerer. Becoming a wizard was what I was working hard to achieve. While I was well paid as a sorcerer, a wizard's earnings were so much better, that I wanted it very badly.
I looked out the window of the restaurant where I was eating, and watched the cars go by. The marriage between science and magic had started off very shakily, fifty years ago, when magic returned to the world. However, most of the problems had been ironed out, and there was a sort of peace between magic users and science, now.
The local power plant had gone off of fossil fuel, and had been run by a wizard and a team of sorcerers for about ten years now. Fossil fuels just cost too much, when you could use magic to do the same thing. Even paying the excellent salaries the magical team demanded, the electric companies had profits coming out their asses.
Absently, I took a bite of my steak, and thought hard about my paper. That was only one third of my final test scoring for promotion to the rank of Wizard. I still had the magical test to do, and I had to come up with a "new, never before used" spell to complete the criteria for promotion.
"Carl! There you are," I heard behind me.
I turned in my seat, and saw Kate and Alex walking towards me.
"Hey, Alex... Kate. Skipping out on the evening classes again?" I asked, before stabbing my fork into my salad.
Alex and Kate were taking advanced courses in magic with me. Both were ranked as Sorcerer and Sorceress. They, too, were studying for advancement to Wizard.
"I thought you had to go off and do your military service, Carl," Alex said to me.
"I got a reprieve. The government is trying like hell to get me to sign a new contract. Letting me skate on this training exercise, is a way they are trying to bribe me," I responded when my mouth was clear of food.
"They are so transparent," Kate said with a sniff.
I nodded in agreement. I really didn't mind going off on the training exercises. I had enough magic at my command to make myself comfortable in 'field conditions'. Besides, I loved camping out, and the military was very good at sending people out into the field. I had been scheduled to go out with an infantry battalion and set up defensive wards and respond to any magical attacks.
That is until my supervisor had called and informed me that my portion of the field exercise was canceled, and that I had no requirements or commitments to meet at this time. That meant extra study and writing time on my paper.
"You almost done with the paper yet, Alex?" I asked.
"Hell, no. I am only halfway done with it. Kate finished hers already, though," Alex said while sending Kate a dark look.
"Not my fault you keep finding other things to do Alex. Maybe if you concentrated more on study, and less on dating; you would be done, just like I am," Kate responded and grinned.
"Well, I am almost done with my paper. I just need to write a couple more pages and then proofread everything. Then I just wait for the magical portion of the test. What's giving me a real headache is trying to come up with that 'new spell' requirement," I said, sighing dejectedly.
"I don't see why you're having so much trouble with that. After all, you passed spell construction or you wouldn't be a sorcerer," Kate said while snagging a tomato out of my salad bowl.
"Breaking down existing spells is one thing. Constructing a spell that has never before been cast, is something else again... and stay out of my salad," I replied moodily.
That was the kicker. To get rated as a Wizard, or promoted, I would have to basically create a brand new, never before used, spell. That was on top of turning in my paper, and taking a test using existing spells. The spell I had to make could be anything. It didn't even have to be complicated, or powerful. It just had to be a new spell never before used. I could understand why it was a requirement, tho. The magical community needed new spells. This was a good way of getting them.
About then a waitress came by and my two friends ordered. I had not meant to eat with anyone this evening, though, and told them I was leaving for the library as soon as I was finished.
"Are you going to the week end bash this time?" Kate asked me.
"I think I am a bit old to be going to week end bashes, Kate," I responded.
"You're what, twenty seven? That's not old at all, particularly now a days. You're only as old as you feel," Kate replied snagging yet another one of the few remaining tomato's from my salad.
I gave her a look and held up my fork in a threatening manner to indicate I was stabbing her hand next time. She just grinned at me and suddenly looked around. Alex Was looking over Kate's shoulder and I could feel it myself. Someone with power was here, and it had a gentle religious feel to it. A sort of saintliness.
Now... while I believe in God, I had never really been a church go-er, myself. I had no objections to the many religions that were around, I just felt that one's view of God, and how you worshiped Him, was a personal thing that should not be directed by a specific person, group, or authority.
Just as Alex and Kate's order arrived, three people were seated close by, and their order taken. One was dressed in all black. Black shoes, pants, and shirt, with a white collar denoting his Catholic religion.
Another man was dressed in a long flowing robe of some sort, had a beard and a turban-like headdress. The third person was a nun, of all things. One of those people exuded a gentle power that could not be ignored. It lifted and buoyed the spirit. I felt better just basking in its presence.
The whole atmosphere of the room seemed to change with the coming of these three holy people. Everyone was more relaxed, and they all enjoyed their meal even more than usual. Smiles were appearing and sighs of contentment could be heard around the room.
"Wow, someone has a direct line to 'you know where'," Kate said, quietly awed.
"Is it just me, or does it seem odd that three such diverse religious people would be eating together? I mean, the Arab is obviously a Muslim, you can tell by his copy of the Koran, the Catholic is obvious, and a nun with them? This is a curious mix, indeed," Alex mused, stating what I was thinking.
What could bring such three diverse people together? Oh, the nun could be Catholic, but the Arab man seemed friendly and even comfortable with the other two. It just seemed peculiar to me as well as my friends.
"I really need to get to church more often," Kate said with a sigh.
"You don't need a church, to worship, Kate. Just tell God what you are feeling and pray whenever and wherever you wish," I responded telling her my way of doing things.
"True. However there is something about being with like minded people, at a church, that is comforting," Alex explained.
"Well, I find that the edicts of 'the church' (ANY church of any organized religion), can seem a bit contradictory. I will just go my own way, and my own way, show my respect to and for God," I quietly informed them.
I was listening to the professor expound on a fairly obvious rule of magic. It was a rule stating that a magic user, despite his official rank, could perform to his or her level and even exceed it upon occasion. First year stuff, really.
I tuned him out and thought about the new spell I was working on. I had the beginning thought out, and the ending. I just needed to bridge the two portions together, to complete the spell.
The bridge of the spell was what was giving me trouble.
I was designing a spell that would give a magic user a punch. It would take all available stored magical energy the magic user had available, and also use his or her connection to the magic field, and when used, would cause whatever the magic user cast it at to be hit with a force that was at least ten times stronger than the magic users physical strength. A good offensive spell, if I could finish it. Best of all, it was a cast spell and had a range of about one hundred feet as near as I could figure.
What made this spell different from others that were similar, was that when it was cast, simultaneously a shield went up around the spell caster, automatically defending him or her. This was because the spell caster would be drained of magical power, momentarily, and would need a moment to re-establish the connection back to the magical field, which would be disrupted by the spell as the user cast it.
That was the unfortunate side affect... The losing of the magical connection. Still, I had taken that into account, and had thus created the shield portion of the spell. The really difficult part, was that I had to reduce it down to a manageable phrase and gesture. I sighed in frustration.
Finally, the class was over, and I put my notebook in my backpack. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was now 7PM. It was already dark outside and I had several blocks to walk to get to my apartment.
"Carl, wait up," Gus Billings said to me as I walked out the door.
.... There is more of this story ...